Miami Dolphins fans celebrate a touchdown. File photo by Susan Knowles/UPI | License Photo
The Miami Dolphins did the expected by going for defense in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday, but they did a bit of the unexpected by selecting Missouri defensive end/outside linebacker Charles Harris with the 22nd pick.
Harris (6-foot-3, 253 pounds) was a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection in 2015 and 2016 whose specialty is rushing the passer. The redshirt junior had nine sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 2016 after seven sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss in 2015.
"We loved the pass rush that he gives us," Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said. "This guy loves football. It's very important to him."
Harris didn't play football until his junior year of high school, preferring instead to play basketball. He said he played football only so people wouldn't think he was "weak or soft."
Harris will likely be counted on to start opposite Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Wake and/or be in the rotation along with William Hayes and Andre Branch.
"I'm going to cause friction, without a doubt," he said.
Grier said the Dolphins targeted two players before the draft.
"We had two players targeted at 22, and he was one of the two," Grier said, declining to say whether that player was still available when Harris was selected.
Grier, who has the final say on the draft for the Dolphins, said Miami had trade opportunities.
"We had two calls for the pick," Grier said.
But in the end, the Dolphins decided to select the player they'd targeted roughly a month ago.
A number of quality players were on the board when the Dolphins picked, including tight end David Njoku (University of Miami), defensive end Taco Charlton (Michigan), guard Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky), linebackers Reuben Foster (Alabama), Tak McKinley (UCLA), T.J. Watt (Wisconsin) and safety/linebacker Jabrill Peppers (Michigan).
In the end, the Dolphins chose to go for someone to help a defense that ranked 29th in the NFL and 30th against the run (140.4 yards per game) in 2016.
They also chose to boost their pass rush.
"I'm going to get to the quarterback, without a doubt," Harris said.